I've had young helicopter pilots introduce themselves to me and try to come off as big experts because they have a thousand hours or so of flight time. I met one who claimed to know everything about the Bell 206. I asked him how much flight time he had? “About 2,000 hours,” he said, which I knew was a lie…okay, an “exaggeration.” And, I pressed a little further, how much time of that is in the 206? “About 50 hours.” Hmm.
I let him talk on and on for a while. I did not mention that of my 11,000 hours of flight time, over 7,000 hours have been spent flying the various models of the Bell 206. Does this make me the most knowledgeable 206 expert in the whole universe? Hardly. But you could say that I’m “familiar” enough with the type. And I was familiar enough with the ship to know that this young pilot to whom I was talking didn’t know shit about the Bell 206.
The point is, you never know who you’re talking to. Especially in my current line of work, you never know who’s getting in the cab. I re-learned this just yesterday. A guy hopped in at the airport and asked to be taken to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Hotel out on Pensacola Beach (a $35.00 fare). Sure thing! Off we went.
I usually ask my passengers what brings them to Pensacola? This guy tersely said he had a meeting, but didn’t offer any details. “Well, you sure picked the right place to stay!” I offered. “The Margaritaville is one of the nicest hotels on the beach, *and* it has a great restaurant, Frank and Lola’s right inside.”
In the first place, both statements are true. There are good and not-so-good hotels out on the beach; Margaritaville and the Hilton are two of the best. But I'd never want to insult anyone about their choice of hotel. Making people feel bad about themselves is never a good idea.
It turned out that my passenger was in charge of all Margaritaville facilities worldwide, the number two man under Jimmy Buffet himself. Yikes!
Knowing when to keep your mouth shut is important, obviously, but knowing what to say and what not to say when you do open your mouth is equally important. It's a lesson it took me a very long time to learn.